Global Relay Communications Inc.

Congratulations to Global Relay Communications, 2013’s #8 Most Innovative Company in B.C.

Secure message archiving has been around since the dawn of email, but constant innovation at Global Relay Communications Inc. has kept the Vancouver firm one step ahead of the competition.

At the heart of Global Relay’s innovation is the decision early on to target an industry with very specific needs: financial services and the complex regulatory requirements for investment brokers and dealers. Lots of companies can track, store and retrieve digital communications and lots of lawyers can advise brokerage firms on compliance requirements. Global Relay can do both.

The strategy has landed the world’s biggest banks as clients for Global Relay and has placed the company within shouting distance of global IT giants. A 2012 report by research company Gartner Inc. places Global Relay among the leading challengers to the three giants in enterprise information archiving: IBM, Symantec Corp. and Proofpoint Inc.

Another of the company’s early innovations was to house its archiving system on remote servers since the company’s inception in 1999, long before most people had heard of cloud computing. CEO and co-founder Warren Roy explains that the decision wasn’t based on technology, but on the quest for a business model that could weather any recession. Rather than simply sell clients a software package and walk away, Global Relay bundled its product and its expertise as a subscription service, providing stable, recurring revenue. “The customer is mandated to use the technology by regulators; they can’t turn it off,” Roy explains.

The Internet-based platform meant that financial institutions could access all their digital communications—not only email and instant messaging, but industry-specific platforms such as Bloomberg mail and Reuters messaging—through a desktop browser.

The company’s most recent innovation was to adapt its services to mobile platforms and incorporate social media. In the past year Global Relay has rolled out mobile search applications for BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone and Android devices, and added Twitter and LinkedIn to its archiving function. Now financial brokers and dealers have instant access to all their archived communications through their tablets and mobile phones.

Global Relay’s staff structure is proof of its dedication to innovation: 125 of its 225 employees are software developers. The company grew from Roy’s previous career in architectural design and construction; it began as a service to track the exchange of digital documents throughout the life of a building project, but initial uptake was slow. “At the end of four years, we had three employees and $50,000 in revenue,” Roy says.

When U.S. securities regulators issued strict new rules about communications storage and retrieval in 2001, on the heels of the Enron scandal, Roy had his big idea: “We realized we were focusing on the wrong industry.” The three-man team of Roy, co-founder Duff Reid and software developer Eric Parusel, was augmented by a fourth employee: Shannon Rogers, a lawyer with expertise in financial regulations. As the financial industry scrambled to make sense of the new regulations, the upstart Vancouver firm got its big break when it was named an “approved message archiving compliance resource provider” by the National Association of Securities Dealers in the U.S. (now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority).

Today Global Relay serves 16,000 customers in 90 countries. Shannon Rogers, now the company’s president, was named Canada’s top female entrepreneur by Profit magazine in 2011 and in 2012 Global Relay was among Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50.